Hormone, Fat and Bone: The Saga Continues

By Dr. Kathleen Leninger, DPT

If you’ve read my blogs in the past, you know my main goal in life is to educate the world on the importance of hormones and bone health. The rest of the world is finally catching up with me and new research is coming out about the importance of bone marrow fat cells and their relationship with bone and hormones.

Your bone marrow contains mesenchymal stem cells. These can become one of two things: osteocytes (bone cells) or adipocytes (fat cells). When you are a kid and you are growing, the transformation process to osteocyte and adipocyte is even 1:1.  Once you hit puberty, the process of making an osteocyte becomes harder because you need calcium for hormone signaling (more on that later). Without the appropriate nutrients, adipocytes are easier to make and once they are formed, they will attach to existing bone cells and decrease the integrity of the bone.

So let’s talk about hormones.  There are tons of hormones in the body, some are good and some are bad. Calcium plays an important role in signaling hormones correctly.  One important hormone in this equation is leptin. Leptin is a fat cell hormone, so when there is excess adipose tissue (fat) leptin is released to the brain. Blood samples have shown that leptin levels are high in two populations: the obese and the anorexic. Researchers have found leptin in the anorexic population comes from the adipocytes pretending to be bone cells.

Take home message: Make sure you are giving your bones the nutrients it needs, otherwise flimsy adipocytes are moving in to weaken your bones!

Lucas,S and Rharass, T. Bone marrow adiposity and bone, a bad romance?  Mechanisms in Endocrinology. R165-R182.